There are people attempting to frame support for a free and open internet as a “leftist” cause. This is despite the fact that both the left and right support net neutrality. In fact, a recent poll conducted by Mozilla found that 81 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of Republicans support net neutrality. Many other polls have found that Americans generally like net neutrality and don’t want internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T to be able to decide what they should be able to browse. Clearly, net neutrality is not a right vs. left issue. Yet, the message is being pushed by right leaning news sources like Fox News that it is. Why?
Those manufacturing this opposition against net neutrality understand that this is something most Americans want to protect. Americans have grown attached to the way the internet works and don’t want to have their choices limited by the internet providers. Their goal is to wedge the American people against each other on the topic by taking advantage of a the current political climate. They know that the left and right can’t see eye to eye on anything at the moment. For that reason, they want to portray net neutrality as a leftist cause and lump it in with all other leftist causes. This, in turn, is going to convince many right leaning Americans that net neutrality is something they should oppose simply because it’s something only the left supports.
These merchants of opposition are using the same tactics that big industry used to cast doubt about global warming. They took advantage of the fact that prominent “leftists” like Al Gore were advocating for global warming causes. They used that to spin the argument around and make it one about politics. They framed the debate as one being between the right and the left. Naturally, many of those on the right who didn’t know much on the matter simply sided against the left. These are people who simply oppose whatever the opposite side of political spectrum supports. These are people who are easily manipulated.
These tactics are clearly effective as they serve to blur the line between truth and non-truth. To this day, many people doubt the credibility of man-made climate change science despite abundant evidence. This is because it’s no longer an issue of fact versus non-fact in their eyes. Climate scientists are no longer deemed as legitimate scientists in the pursuit of truth. Instead, this is an issue of right versus left. That is, it no longer matters what is true or false here. What matters is that they oppose “the left” and have been told that climate change is a political goal endorsed only by the left. This is how the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. All you need to do is associate a certain fact with one side of the political spectrum. This will inevitably lead to the other side of the political spectrum denying that fact regardless of how demonstrably true it is.
This is the goal of those who are currently manufacturing opposition against net neutrality. They understand that many people form their entire identity around their political stances. These people are being deceived into believing that net neutrality is a leftist cause. They must then make a choice between their personal identity or net neutrality. Many will choose to retain their identity and choose to no longer support net neutrality. If “the left” takes the bait and fights harder for net neutrality while wearing their “leftist” hats, it will only strengthen the right’s opposition against it as they will more strongly associate it with leftists. Facts will no longer matter.
This is the game they play. We cannot continue to respond in the ways we have before. It doesn’t matter how much we protest, argue, or debate and win if we allow the debate to be framed around “left” vs. “right.” What we must do is make sure that this does NOT become a political issue and not engage with those who want to make it one. Stick to explaining what net neutrality is and why it is important. Never frame the issue as being one about politics or let the other frame it that way. Because this is not an issue of left versus right politics. Instead, this is an issue of protecting the internet as we know it: free and open.